Android (operating system)

What Is Media Volume Sync on the Galaxy S8?

Once upon a time, Android devices and Bluetooth audio devices handled their respective volume outputs independently of one another. Then Google linked Bluetooth and system volume together for a more unified experience. Now Samsung is letting you undo that on the fly.

And that’s really the long and short of the story here: the Galaxy S8 uses Bluetooth 5.0, so you have a lot more control over what happens with Bluetooth connections. This allows users to do things like separate the phone and Bluetooth device volume for much more granular (though arguably more annoying) control. It’s pretty neat.

It may sound slightly confusing, so here’s a quick breakdown to better explain what I’m talking about here. Let’s say you have some Bluetooth earbuds connected to your phone. When you press either volume button on the headset, it changes the overall media volume on the phone—this is even indicated by a visual notification, like in the screenshot below. This is how stock Android handles Bluetooth volume, and has…

Dawn of Titans heads to China as Zynga partners with NetEase

Zynga announced it is partnering with Chinese game publisher NetEase to publish Dawn of Titans in China on iOS and Android.

The free-to-play mobile game is one of the company’s highest profile titles. Zynga bought NaturalMotion for $527 million in 2014, partly because of the potential of Dawn of Titans and CSR Racing.

Since that time, NaturalMotion worked hard on Dawn of Titans and, after delays, launched the title last fall. I’ve been playing the game ever since, and I’m impressed with the depth of its single-player campaign and the quality of the real-time action. You build a fortress and an economy to support it, and attack rivals.

The battles are asynchronous, where the defender does not control troops in real-time. Rather, the attacker fights in real-time while the defenders simply react based on artificial intelligence controls. The big giants, known as Titans, often swing the battle decisively as the wreak havoc…

Android to launch TensorFlow Lite for mobile machine learning

Above: Dave Burke, vice president of engineering for Android, onstage at Google I/O 2017.

Android app developers will soon have a specialized version of TensorFlow to work with on mobile devices. TensorFlow Lite, which will be part of the TensorFlow open source project, will let developers use machine learning for their mobile apps.

The news was announced today at I/O by Dave Burke, vice president of engineering for Android. I/O is an annual Google developer conference being held May 17-19 in Mountain View, California.

What’s New in Android O, Arriving Summer 2017

Google I/O 2017 keynote is in the books, and as usual, Google showed us a preview of the latest version of Android. Codenamed O, the next iteration of Google’s mobile operating system is coming this summer, but you can get your hands on the beta right now. Here are the best features you’ll see when it drops.

Just like with Android N, Google is offering a formal beta program for Android O. Device support for this build is much smaller than it was for the N preview, however, with only a handful of units being eligible:

  • Nexus 6P
  • Nexus 5X
  • Google Pixel
  • Google Pixel XL
  • Nexus Player
  • Pixel C

If you have any of those devices, you can jump in on the beta here. A word of caution, however: I do not recommend using this if it’s your only phone. This is very much a beta and not meant for daily use. You have been warned.

Not so brave? Here’s a list of what you’ll get when Android O drops this summer.

Fluid Experiences

Google is bringing a new set of features to Android O that it calls “Fluid Experiences”. It includes Picture in Picture, Notification Dots, Autofill, and Smart Text Selection. Here’s a brief look at each one.

Picture in Picture Puts One App Above Another

In Android Nougat (7.x), we got the ability to run two apps on the screen at once with Multi-window. While a super useful feature in its own right, it’s not always best solution. So with O, Google is bringing Picture in Picture mode to the small screen. This will let users open an app in the foreground, while keeping something like a YouTube video running in a smaller window on top. The early implementation looks really solid so far.

Notification Dots Let You Know What Apps Have Notifications

If you’ve ever used something like Nova Launcher that has built-in notification “badges,” then you already know what Notification Dots are all about. Basically, this a quick way to see pending notifications (aside from using the notification bar, of course) on home screen icons. Unfortunately, they are exactly what the name suggests: dots. Not numbers or anything of the sort. It’s also unclear if these will work in the app drawer as well.

One cool thing about Notification Dots is the long-press action. With the long-press features introduced with Pixel Launcher, you are able to do more with home screen icons, and Notification Dots takes this a step further by allowing you to actually see the notification by long-pressing the icon. It’s rad.

Autofill Passwords in Apps

Chrome has had autofill features for a long time—be it passwords or form data. Now that feature is coming to Android apps as well. For example, if Chrome has your Twitter or Facebook login credentials saved, the app will autofill and login on your Android phone. This is a feature that’s way overdue, and I’m so glad to see it coming front and center in Android O.

Smart Text Selection Gives You Context-Aware Shortcuts

Android O, Google Assistant and augmented reality: What to expect at Google I/O

Google’s biggest event of the year is about to get underway.

The company’s developers conference, Google I/O, is just hours away so naturally the rumor mill has already kicked into high gear. At this year’s event, we expect to hear much more about the next version of Android, Google’s plans for its Assistant, and what’s going on with its VR platform, Daydream.

Of course, as with every year, there are bound to be a few surprises as well. But for now, here’s a look at everything we’re expecting to see (and, in some cases not see) at I/O.

Android O(reo?)

Though Google already released the first developer preview for Android O (the version of Android after N, or Nougat), I/O is when we’ll finally hear about what’s next for Android in much, much, more detail. Given what we’ve seen in the preview, though, we know improvements to notifications and battery life are likely to be a big focus. We also know customizable app icons for different device types, picture-in-picture and improved autofill are also on the table.

Image: oreo

As for the name, it’s anyone’s guess. The company could go the crowd-source route like it did last year, or it could have the name already picked out. The current favorite, though, seems to be Android Oreo — and not just because it’s one of the only sugary treats that starts with the letter “O.”

Earlier this year, Oreo released a mobile game that encourages users to snap photos of cookies with their phones in order to virtually “dunk” the cookies through space. The game, which uses…

You can no longer download Netflix on rooted Android phones

Image: mashable / brittany herbert

If you’re an Android user with a rooted phone — there’s bad news for you.

Netflix may no longer work on your rooted or unlocked device, due to an update to the app. Netflix now fully relies on Google’s Widevine DRM, the company told Android Police. The change comes not long after Netflix enabled downloads for offline…

Two major carmakers just added Android to their cars’ dashboards

Android Auto is coming to even more cars.
Android Auto is coming to even more cars.

Android is coming to your car — and you won’t even need to bring your phone along for the ride.

A year after Google teased the experience, Android-powered car infotainment systems are much closer to reality. Full Android integration is a step beyond Android Auto, where users can project car-specific versions of apps (like Maps) to a dashboard running some other software; now Android powers the entire system.

The first two carmakers to show off Android-powered cars are Audi and Volvo, and at least one of concept vehicle — Audi’s flashy R8 sport — will be on display at this week’s Google I/O developers conference.

The deeper Android integration means more Android’s features — such as Google’s voice-activated Assistant — will run natively on dashboards. Beyond the usual Android Auto fare of Spotify and Google Maps, you could also use voice to control things like…

Fragmentation Isn’t Android’s Fault, It’s the Manufacturers’

It’s 2017, and I still see people criticizing Android for “fragmentation”. This gives Android in general a bad name, and I want to make the facts clear: this isn’t Google or Android’s fault. It’s the fault of your manufacturer.

While this has been a talked about issue for some time, a recent piece from Boy Genius Report got me thinking about it—infuriatingly titled “No iPhone user can even imagine dealing with what Android users have to tolerate”. I want to set the record straight: this type of thinking isn’t just unfair to Android, it’s flat out wrong.

What Is Fragmentation?

Basically, when people talk about fragmentation, they’re referring to the spread of Android versions that are still running on devices “in the wild,” because the adoption rate of new version of Android is much slower than that of iOS. It makes sense, really—there are a handful of iPhones, but hundreds of different Android phones, from a variety of manufacturers, and they don’t all update to the latest version at the same time.

May 2017 Android Distribution numbers

So, when we talk about Android “fragmentation” as a downside compared to iOS, it suggests that there’s an issue with Android, software development, or the update schedule in general. Articles like the one from Boy Genius Report imply that the issue comes from Google, which isn’t the case. Ever since Google purchased Android, the company has been responsible for pushing updates to the platform. And while it was definitely hit and miss in its infancy, we’ve seen Google take a much more structured approach to OS updates for Android in recent years. In fact, it’s almost clockwork now.

But here we are, still acting like Android has an update issue, when that’s just not the case. The primary argument against Android when it comes to updates is the comparison to Apple and the iPhone. “But nearly 80 percent of iPhones are running the latest version of iOS!” I hear people say. But that’s not an argument at all—unless it’s done fairly. Allow me to explain.

iOS Distribution numbers as of Feb 20th 2017.

Comparing Apples to Apples

Basically, Apple produces the iPhone, as well as iOS. It sends updates directly to the iPhone. Apple is solely responsible for updating its own hardware using its own software. It doesn’t work the same way for Android. If you really want a fair comparison, it’s Google hardware/software versus Apple hardware/software. In other words, it’s Pixel/Nexus versus iPhone.

That’s the only real comparison that can be used fairly—it’s an apples to apples comparison, for lack of a better analogy. Google’s official stance on Nexus and Pixel updates is pretty straightforward: these phones get Android version updates for “at least 2 years from when the device first became available on the Google Store” and security updates “for at least 3 years from when the device first became available on the Google Store, or at least 18 months from when the Google Store last sold the device, whichever is longer.“ That’s straight from Google’s mouth.

Google Pixel update periods.

That means under the current rules, three generations of Nexus/Pixel devices are being supported by Google: the Nexus 6, 6P, and 5x, as well as the Pixel and Pixel XL. And yes, the Android ecosystem is bigger than that, but those devices are really just alternative options: Google has just as many phone options as Apple does, and they’re all kept up to date.

By contrast, Apple is actually less transparent with its update timelines and commitments. Five generations of Apple iPhones are running the latest software (iOS 10): iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, SE, 7, and 7 Plus. The writing is on the wall for the iPhone 5, but at the time of writing it’s still being supported so I’m listing it here and…

Netflix is blocking rooted Android phones from downloading its app

Netflix is blocking rooted Android phones from downloading its app

If you’ve rooted your Android phone in order to gain access to more settings than the average user, you will no longer be able to grab Netflix’s app from Google Play, as the company is blocking downloads on such devices.

With our latest 5.0 release, we now fully rely on the Widevine DRM provided by Google; therefore, many devices that are not Google-certified or have been altered will no longer work with our latest app and those users will no longer see the Netflix app in the Play Store.

While the decision to block downloads from…